Sunday, December 08, 2013

How Many American Men Are Gay?

Degrees of the Closet - Mississippi is the most intolerant state with the likely most closeted men
Since coming out in mid-life one thing that has struck me is the number of closeted men there are.  They even exist in my old suburban neighborhood although the only place you will find them is on sites like Craigslist or Adam4Adam.  Many apparently go on and on living a double life, never admitting that they are in reality gay.  It is something that I could not do and I cannot imagine every returning to a life where I played a role rather than truly living my life.  An op-ed in the New York Times conjectures that at least 5% of American men are gay.  I'd venture that the percentage is much higher if all the closet cases were ever truly counted.  Here are are excerpts from the column:

WHAT percent of American men are gay? This question is notoriously difficult to answer. Historical estimates range from about 2 percent to 10 percent.

But somewhere in the exabytes of data that human beings create every day are answers to even the most challenging questions. 

Using surveys, social networks, pornographic searches and dating sites, I recently studied evidence on the number of gay men. The data used in this analysis is available in highly aggregated form only and can be downloaded from publicly accessible sites. While none of these data sources are ideal, they combine to tell a consistent story. 

At least 5 percent of American men, I estimate, are predominantly attracted to men, and millions of gay men still live, to some degree, in the closet. Gay men are half as likely as straight men to acknowledge their sexuality on social networks. More than one quarter of gay men hide their sexuality from anonymous surveys. The evidence also suggests that a large number of gay men are married to women. 

While these data sources all measure different degrees of openness, one result is strikingly similar: All three suggest that the openly gay population is dramatically higher in more tolerant states, defined using an estimate by Nate Silver of support for same-sex marriage.

Are there really so many fewer gay men living in less tolerant states? There is no evidence that gay men would be less likely to be born in these states. Have many of them moved to more tolerant areas? Some have, but Facebook data show that mobility can explain only a small fraction of the difference in the totally out population.  . . . .  Some gay men do move out of less tolerant states, but this effect is small. 

While tolerant states have a slightly higher percentage of these searches, roughly 5 percent of pornographic searches are looking for depictions of gay men in all states. This again suggests that there are just about as many gay men in less tolerant states as there are anywhere else.  

These results suggest that the closet remains a major factor in American life. For comparison, about 3.6 percent of American men tell anonymous surveys they are attracted to men and a tenth of gay men say that they do not tell most of the important people in their lives. In states where the stigma against homosexuality remains strong, many more gay men are in the closet than are out. 

How deep in the closet are these men? . . . . Additional evidence that suggests that many gay men in intolerant states are deeply in the closet comes from a surprising source: the Google searches of married women. It turns out that wives suspect their husbands of being gay rather frequently. In the United States, of all Google searches that begin “Is my husband...,” the most common word to follow is “gay.” “Gay” is 10 percent more common in such searches than the second-place word, “cheating.” It is 8 times more common than “an alcoholic” and 10 times more common than “depressed.” 

Searches questioning a husband’s sexuality are far more common in the least tolerant states. The states with the highest percentage of women asking this question are South Carolina and Louisiana. 

Craigslist lets us look at this from a different angle. I analyzed ads for males looking for “casual encounters.” The percentage of these ads that are seeking casual encounters with men tends to be larger in less tolerant states. Among the states with the highest percentages are Kentucky, Louisiana and Alabama. 

There is, in other words, a huge amount of secret suffering in the United States that can be directly attributed to intolerance of homosexuality. 

This particular part of the column stood out to me and embodies the pain and suffering caused by religious bigotry, all so that the Christofascists can feel better about themselves while denigrating gays:
I asked a psychiatrist in Mississippi who specializes in helping closeted gay men if any of his patients might want to talk to me. One man contacted me. He told me he was a retired professor, in his 60s, married to the same woman for more than 40 years. 

He and his wife do not have sex. He says that he would feel guilty ever ending his marriage or openly dating a man. He regrets virtually every one of his major life decisions. 

The retired professor and his wife will go another night without romantic love, without sex. Despite enormous progress, the persistence of intolerance will cause millions of other Americans to do the same.
This knowledge leaves me with a deep sense of sadness.  What also bothers me is that the Christofascist, anti-gay hate groups, and denominations like the Catholic Church and Southern Baptist Convention do not give a damn about the harm their anti-gay jihad is having on straight spouses.   To me, that's the biggest sin of all.

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